What makes a laptop so useful?
Some might say it's the raw power you need for editing videos. Others would argue the most important spec is screen size and color quality--you know, for the Netflix lovers. For anyone who uses a laptop to do actual work on a daily basis on a plane, at the office, or to type up reports at Caribou, functionality is the most important thing. Screen size and power? Who cares. You just need to get into Google Docs and not have any slowdowns when you open 14 million tabs in Chrome. You want a good keyboard, a clear screen, and no surprises.
For the past week, I've been testing that machine. It's the new Apple MacBook with a 12-inch screen, known colloquially as the MacBook 2016. While I'd prefer that Apple use some other naming convention so customers don't have to figure out which version is the latest, I also appreciate how the best company in tech likes to keep things simple. You buy an iPad, an iPhone, and a MacBook. No need to worry about any specific model numbers.
Before you jump all over my assertion that this is the best MacBook, hold on for a second. I'm talking about "best" for getting work done. I know the MacBook Pro has a faster processor and a better screen. I ended up liking the new MacBook 12-inch for a few important reasons. One is that it weighs (pause for jaw-drop moment) two pounds. Because I've been testing commuter bikes recently as a way to lose a little more weight, I've loved the small size and weight. I pop one into my Seagull bag and pedal off into the sunrise each morning. It's awesome.
The keyboard beats my previous pick for favorite laptop, the Google Chromebook Pixel 2015. (That's one thing Apple and Google have in common--they don't like model numbers.) The keys were introduced on the last MacBook, but this is my first time testing the smaller, slightly raised keyboard. It's fantastic. I type incredibly fast when I'm on deadline, and this really helps.
The big improvement here is that this model now uses the Intel Skylake chipset and the Core M5 processor. I've tested laptops before that use outdated processors and make me wince, especially when I've accumulated a boatload of tabs. I ran Adobe Photoshop CC on this machine with iTunes in the background and Chrome running and never had any problems. This model has 8GB of RAM, which also helps. My test model has the slightly faster 1.2GHz processor and 500GB of flash storage, which puts the price at $1,599. The 1.1GHz model costs $1,299.
Battery life runs about 10 hours, but I tend to squeeze out as much juice as possible. I dimmed the screen a bit, played music on my phone instead, and used the MacBook all day without having to charge, mostly running Chrome. It was more like 12 hours of use, but some of that was with the system sitting idle or in sleep mode. I'm eager to try this one on a business trip coming up and see how it performs on a plane.
That's the biggest reason I'm picking this one over the MacBook Pro. There are always trade-offs. On a plane, a larger laptop doesn't work as well for typing in the small confines of a passenger seat. I prefer a grab-and-go laptop that doesn't add bulk or extra weight. Now that Apple has also starting using the latest Intel processor, it means the MacBook is also speedy. It's a good daily use, serious work machine.
The small size, fast speed, long battery life, amazing keyboard, and clear screen make this my top pick to complement the iPhone and iPad. When my review is over, I plan to drop the $1,299 for the 1.1GHz version with a 256GB flash drive to get one for myself.